Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Aggressive Bees In LaBelle

Aggressive bee DNA found in almost half local samples

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Department of Agriculture says that the more
aggressive African honeybee has entered Florida and department is
attempting to educate growers and the public of the hazards possible. The
Honey Bee Technical Council, established by Florida statute to study the
field of beekeeping and make recommendations on changes to laws, met July
13, 2005, to discuss the status of the bees in Florida. At this meeting,
the Department presented evidence of the continuing crossbreeding habits or
hybridization of the European and African bees in the Florida. AHB DNA was
detected in 40 of 93 samples taken from honey bee colonies in La Belle in
early May 2005.

Concerns related to the increase of AHBs involve safety issues and impacts
to managed honey bee colonies which Florida agriculture depends on. Unlike
EHBs, AHBs strongly defend their hives. If they feel threatened they will
attack and can deliver multiple stings (Europeans sting only once) and
pursue targets (people or animals) over long distances (up to one-quarter

While the AHBs are good pollinators and honey makers, they are extremely
difficult to manage. They swarm (leave the hive to reproduce) as many as
16 times per year, where EHBs swarm once or twice a year. It would be
extremely difficult for beekeepers to manage hives that are abandoned that
many times, and this frequent swarming behavior also results in the
spreading and dominating of the genetics for this particular insect. AHB
can take over more gentle European colonies, killing the queen and
installing their own AHB queen.

EHB-managed colonies are placed within 20 feet of vegetable crops and
co-exist peacefully with farm workers. Because of their defensive nature,
AHB hives would need to be placed as far away from farm workers as 1,000
feet. The Department is working closely with the beekeeping industry to
address how pollination practices will need to be modified due to the
increase in AHBs.

The department says in case of an attack by a swarm of defensive honey
bees, 1) get away from the bees by going inside a building or car, or 2)
run in a zig-zag pattern until the bees disperse (usually no more than one
quarter of a mile). In all cases, report swarms of defensive bees to local
pest control companies, emergency responders or the state's toll-free
helpline number 1-888-397-1517.

Florida's beekeeping industry has grown tremendously over the years.
Florida beekeepers are consistently among the nation's leaders in honey
production with 17 million pounds produced each year. Honey is only part
of the story. For every dollar of honey produced in Florida, approximately
$150 is generated in honey-bee-pollination services that allow fruits,
vegetables, berries, nuts and other foods to form. Agri-economists
estimate that without honey bees, one-third of the food we eat would

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